A group of tenants from an apartment building at 1306 Massachusetts Avenue met with Harvard officials yesterday afternoon to discuss Harvard's alleged responsibility for providing security precautions in the building.
The building--which the tenants contend may be partly owned by Harvard--has been the scene of several burglaries in the last few years. On January 25, a woman living on the third floor was stabbed in the throat and raped, and a number of other apartments in the building were broken into.
The tenants say they have been complaining for weeks to R.M. Bradley & Co. Inc., managers of the property, about the lack of security precautions in the building.
Local building ordinances specify that in apartment buildings with over four units there must be both intercom and buzzer lock systems at the main entrance. The building had no intercom system at the time of the stabbing, and the police who investigated the incident told the tenants that the locks on the windows next to the fire escape were unsafe.
"If you give the windows a quick shove, the locks just pop off. The police demonstrated this to us on some of the older locks the day after the stabbing." Keith Near, a teaching fellow in the History of Science and a tenant in the building, said yesterday.
In 1968, the body of Jane S. Britton '67 was found in her apartment at 6 University Road--a building owned by Harvard and managed by R.M. Bradley & Co.
Tenants at that building had also been complaining about the absence of adequate security precautions.
The tenants of the 1306 Mass Ave building went to see Stephen S.J. Hall, vice president for Administration and chairman of the committee on Tenant Relations, yesterday because of a statement allegedly made to one of the tenants by Robert G. Crocker, Property Manager for R.M. Bradley & Co.
"We have someone who will swear in court that Crocker told her Harvard owned the building," Near said yesterday, "It is on the basis of that statement that Elia (Baker Peet, another tenant in the building) and I went to see Harvard this afternoon."
Yesterday, Hall denied that Harvard owned the building. "Harvard has an option to purchase, but has not exercised it," he said.
The tenants, however, say that Harvard's arrangement with R.M. Bradley & Co., may be somewhat different.
"As we understand it, it is not a rental agreement. "Peet said yesterday. "We think that R.M. Bradley owned one halt of the land where the Loeb Theater is now standing, and that in exchange Harvard gave them this property rent and expenditure free for 12 years after the completion of the Loeb.
"If this is true, they (R.M. Bradley & Co.) had grossly at the rent control hearings this summer," she added. "They claimed that they had to make some capital expenditures on the building stemming from an increase in insurance rates because of riots in the Square, and a pizza place that opened around the corner.
"However, if Harvard owns the building, then there is no reason to raise the rents, and they (R.M. Bradley & Co.) perjured themselves in court," Peet said.
Henry H. Cutler, University Real Estate Manager, yesterday supported Hall's statement that Harvard did not own the building, but did have an option to buy it. He refused to give the details of the agreement.
"It's part of a very long and involved deal," Cutler said. "We at one time had a mortgage to the building. It is now owned by Bramont Trust."
When asked about the tenants' complaints, Cutler said, "I don't know anything about it. I know the tenants sent a copy of the letter (a list of grievances compiled by the tenants) to Harvard under the same misapprehension shared by a lot of people that Harvard controls the property, which we don't."
Yesterday Crocker said that R.M. Bradley & Co. was aware of the tenants' complaints, and that security measures were now being taken.
"We haven't finished what we've started yet," Crocker added. "Once we have finished the repairs will be adequate."
When asked about the alleged arrangement between Harvard and R.M. Bradley involving the Loeb, Crocker said, "It sounds like a pretty wild deal. It makes no sense to me."
Crocker refused to specify whether or not Harvard had any connection with the Mass Ave, property. "You'll have to ask them," he said. "I'm not going to give out any information about that."
Theodore L. Storer, former president of R.M. Bradley & Co., also denied yesterday that Harvard owned the building.
"I am one of the owners I'll admit it," Storer said. "I am one of the trustees of Bramont Trust--am chairman of the board--so I own it."
Storer also said that he was aware of the tenants' complaints, and added, "I think you'll find that everything they've asked for has been done, or is in the process of being done."
Once again, however, the tenants disagree.
"They put locks only on the windows on the fire escape on the Friday and the Monday following the incident," Peet said yesterday. "The police said that the locks they put on were unsatisfactory."
"They put bolt locks on the fire escape that don't work," Peet added. "If they're locked properly, you can't get out, and if they're unlocked, anyone can come in. Crocker said that he had never seen the kind of fire doors that can be locked from the outside and pushed open from the inside."
Near also said that the door locks on the apartment could be opened with a plastic credit card, and that the fire doors could be broken down despite the bolt locks.
"The hinges on the doors are the old fashioned pin kind," he said. "Last night I took a pair of vice grip pliers and pulled them right out."
"They (R.M. Bradley & Co.) are willing to talk about fixing the hinges so they can't be pulled," Near added. "I'm not sure what that means, but at least it's a gesture.